December 31, 2008

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony Jet to Puerto Rico

So much for Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's big Valentine's Day demise. (Or so we're being led to believe...)

In the face of reports that the duo have been fighting and are headed for a split, E! News has learned exclusively that J.Lo and her hubby are spending a few days together in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Two days ago, Lopez and Anthony met up with friends and family for dinner at Marmalade, a trendy, upscale restaurant in the old-town section of San Juan.

"Jennifer and Marc looked very happy, so it is hard for me to believe the rumors that their marriage is in trouble," the eatery's general manager, Trace Donaldson, tells E! News. "They were laughing and seemed to be having a great time."

The couple were joined by a group that included Lopez's sister, Lynda.

On Monday, the Out of Sight star's rep denied to E! a New York Daily News report that had the seemingly cozy couple planning to announce their breakup right after Anthony's Feb. 14 show at Madison Square Garden.

"There is no merit to the article," the rep said.

Lopez was spotted Dec. 26 boarding a private flight straight to Puerto Rico out of Van Nuys Airport.

DMX Cuts a Deal on Dog, Drug, Theft Charges

Perhaps DMX has seen the error of his ways and is looking to make a fresh start in 2009.

Just in time to make New Year's resolutions, the oft-arrested rapper has cut a deal in his pending animal cruelty, drug possession and identity theft cases in order to avoid being prosecuted for more than a dozen crimes.

Instead, DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Phoenix court to one count apiece of animal cruelty, theft, marijuana possession and possession of a narcotic, the last three of which are felonies.

Sentencing has been set for Jan. 30 in Maricopa County Superior Court. Additional charges will be dismissed at that time but DMX is facing at least 90 days in jail, according to prosecutors.

"I am pleased that this defendant will be held accountable for both his drug and animal cruelty offenses," said County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

The Great Depression artist had previously pleaded not guilty to mistreating a pack of pit bulls at his Cave Creek, Ariz., home over the past year. He had also maintained that he was innocent of possessing a significant amount of pot and drug paraphernalia, which authorities claimed to have discovered during two raids on the rapper's property in connection with the animal-cruelty allegations.

DMX had also been accused of trying to avoid paying a $7,500 hospital bill in April by giving a false name and contact info to officials at a Scottsdale clinic. He was subsequently busted on suspicion of identity theft in July.

An attorney for the Cradle 2 the Grave star, who also had a coke- and pot-related run-in with the law in Florida in June, said earlier this month that his client had checked into rehab.

Personalities that shaped the politics of 2008

The outgoing year definitely has its fair share of dramatic political developments of note. Some personalities made this happened and their actions and inactions constitute part of the developments that shaped 2008.

President Umaru Yar’Adua

President Umaru Yar’Adua, by virtue of his position as the number on citizen in the country, remained a major focus in the outgoing year. His high level of political tolerance was exhibited earlier in February when the ruling Peoples Democratic Party was shopping for its national chairman. Yar’Adua was expected by the leadership of the party to back one of the candidates or manipulate the process to get his most favoured candidates elected as PDP chairman. This followed what was believed to be the meddlesomeness of his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, in the affairs of the party. But, Yar’Adua disappointed those who expected this continue when he said he had no candidate other than the one that would emerge from the laid down process.

But the health condition of the President became an issue soon after, when he had to jet out of the country for about 11 days on medical grounds. There were some anxieties when his return date was postponed on two occasions.

The country also witnessed a greater level of anxiety over the President’s health when, in August, he went for the lesser Hajj, but had to stay back for medical attention, leading to his absence from the seat of power for 17 days.

His return from the trip and the escalation in the criticism of his administration led to certain changes in the polity. First, the President sacked the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, and replaced him with Alhaji Yayale Ahmed. Also, the President re-designated the position of Chief of Staff to the President as Principal Secretary. He also commenced the process of a reshuffle in the cabinet.

The cabinet change took so long a time before it was eventually effected last month with the sack of 20 ministers. It took another five weeks before new ones were appointed to fill the vacant position.

The December 12 decision of the Supreme Court which upheld Yar’Adua’s election had also, for weeks, put the President in the middle of the storm.

As the year ends, there are speculations that the President might go for a major holiday, a development which is already raising some concern.

Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo

For former President Olusegun Obasanjo, 2008 proved to be a year that confirmed the truism of transience of power. Obasanjo, who handed over power to Yar’Adua as the third executive President of the country, had thought he would carry on as a chaperon or sort to the President, but he was quickly checkmated early in the year, when his chairmanship of the party’s Board of Trustees was denounced my many leaders of the party. As a matter of fact, the re engineering process in the party, also saw to the recommendation that the clause which was inserted into the PDP constitution in 2006 and which ceded the BOT chairmanship to him, be revisited.

The recommendation, by the Dr. Alex Ekwueme-led reconciliation committee was also endorsed by the National Executive Committee of the party.

Even though Obasanjo still retains the BOT chairmanship, it is apparent that he is doing so because of the fact that no meeting of the board has been conveyed.

Even out of government, Obasanjo continued to be the issue (either for good or bad) in some quarters. The House of Representatives probe of the power sector which indicted some of his men, were seen as a probe of his eight years administration.

His face off with the governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, also provided a major excitement in the politics of the state. Even, despite the fact that Obasanjo’s name is not being mentioned in connection with the attempts to make his loyalists such as former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and his Aviation counterpart, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, account for their deeds in office, many believe that their trial amounts to a look into what transpired under his supervision.

Nuhu Ribadu

A substantial development in the politics of the outgoing year largely had to do with the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. His travails which only a few days ago led to his dismissal from the Nigerian Police, had started early in the year, when he was removed from the chairmanship position of the anti-graft agency.

For most Nigerians, Ribadu remains a hero, having done a lot as EFCC chairman to get a more positive image for the country in the comity of nations with his yeoman’s job on the anti-graft drive.

But, this year was very remarkable for the ‘Super cob’, as his name remained an household one in the country and made a lot of headlines with the various developments that have direct and indirect bearing on his person, and public office.

Adams Oshiomhole

His emergence as the governor of Edo State through the upholding of his election by the election appeal tribunal was perhaps the eight wonder in the country’s polity this year ending.

It was the first time a non-PDP petition won over a PDP sitting governor and set the record for this dispensation as the first governor to be so validated via the judicial process.

Oshiomhole’s resumption as governor of the state on November 12, changed the power equation not only in the state but in the country. Today, he is presiding over a state whose Assembly is peopled by PDP lawmakers, and whose local governments are manned by chairmen elected on the platform of the PDP.

Remarkably, however, Adams’ inauguration has reduced the number of PDP governors to 27 and increased the Action Congress from one to two governorship seats.

In less than two months after assuming power, his case has remained a reference point in the polity.

Justice Umaru Abdullahi

President of the Court of Appeal, Umaru Abdullahi remained a major issue in the polity. His position as the number one official at the Appeal Court has put him in a position to receive all the blames for all the controversial judgement made in respect of some election cases that reached the appellate court.

Apparently realising the enormity of the expectation on him, Abdullahi decided to take charge of the election petition involving Governor Adams Oshiomhole and ex Governor Oserheimen Osunbor, in view of the sensitive nature of the case.

The ruling which was delivered on November 11, also rekindled the confidence of many Nigerians in the electoral process.

James Ibori

Former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, has been in and out of the court room on sundry charges in the outgoing year, after the EFCC effected his arrest late in 2007.

In spite of his travails, he remains so relevant in the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua such that PDP insiders have dubbed him as Yar’Adua’s own “Mr. Fix it”.

He is said to be a major influence in many of the Federal Government’s decisions.

Bukola Saraki

As chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki, scion of the Olusola Saraki political dynasty and Governor of Kwara State, remained an influential personality in the polity in 2008. He is seen as one of the most privileged worshippers in the inner sanctum of power in Abuja.

His leadership of the Governors Forum has transformed the group from just a mere fellowship of happy-go-lucky chaps, into a powerful bloc.

Whereas the group lost in its bid to install one of its ex-members as the Senate President in 2007, it bounced back in 2008 to determine who got what when and how at the PDP’s national convention. The group also sponsored some former governors as ministers in the new cabinet.

At the home front, Saraki has neutralised all opposition through a combination of deft political strategy and pro-people policies. The only opposition to his administration, is however coming from an unusual quarters. His estranged sister, Oyinkansola Saraki, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Progressive Alliance in the 2007 election, has remained a thorn in his flesh, as she has fought vigorously to sustain her legal battle against the governor’s election.

Dimeji Bankole

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, had his first dose of scandal that has become the hallmark of the lower legislative house, in the outgoing year, when the leadership of the House was enmeshed in N2.3bn car scandal.

It was a trying time for the Speaker as the scandal faced the possibility for his removal like his predecessor. Analysts however believe that Bankole’s displayed mastery of crisis helped greatly in dousing the tension raised by the crisis.

Prior to the crisis, however, the leadership of the House had been praised for its courage at instituting probes of some past activities of government, including the highly celebrated power sector probe, which revealed a lot of scam under the Obasanjo years. The reconstitution of the committees with emphasis on members’ credentials as a sine qua non to their headship of any committee, was also seen as a new and positive dimension in the conduct of the business of the House.

The Speaker has also been mentioned prominently in the crisis rocking the Ogun State chapter of PDP, as he is said to be nursing a governorship ambition.

Lamidi Adedibu:

The death of the strongman of Ibadan politics, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, on June 11, marked a watershed in the politics of the PDP in the South-West and the Ibadan politics in particular. It was an end of the notorious “amala” politics which had held sway in the state for decades.

That Adedibu had been an issue in the politics of the South-West since the onset of the democratic dispensation in 1999 is to say the obvious. But the politics of the “Alaafin of Molete”, was further energised with the inauguration of Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala’s administration in the state in 2007.

Between January and June 2008, when he passed on, Adedibu, had rocked the politics of the state. His notoriety had compelled the police to hierarchy to get an undertaking from him to be of good conduct earlier in the year. This followed the problem he had with the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control led by Prof. Dora Akunyili, among other issues.

He had insisted on witnessing the ruling of the Appeal Court in the petition instituted against Alao-Akala’s election by the All Nigeria People’s Party governorship candidate, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, before going for his overseas treatment. He never made it! His death has thus redefined the politics of Oyo State, with new alignments and claims to leadership on the increase.

Feast in Warri At year’s end, GKS enlivens oil town with message of renewal

For ministers and members of the God’s Kingdom Society (GKS), it was a joyful moment at this year’s celebration of the Christian Feast of Tabernacles held at the International Headquarters of the church, Salem City, Warri, Delta State.
Despite the attack of Thursday, November 21, 2008 on the church by armed robbers which caused the death of four members, the faithful still showed themselves faithful in their cause for the work of God’s kingdom.

They travelled from far and near in large numbers to observe the great feast.
The eight-day event, which generally held either at St. Urhobo Square or The Grand Stand at the Salem City was declared open by the President of GKS, Oseghale Emmanuel Aighalua.
With the general theme, Think of the end and be sober, by Aighalua, the feast was spectacular. The mammoth crowd dressed in diverse traditional colourful attire was delightful to behold. The people not only exhibited cultural variations but promoted tourism in the country.

The occasion, described by the National President, GKS Youth’s Fellowship, Brother Peters Edoja, as one of the best outings since the inauguration of the church also marked the end of the church’s biblical year and the beginning of a new one.

Indeed, the city of Warri stood still for GKS’ Christian Feast of Tabernacles also known as the Feast of Rejoicing. Anyone visiting the town for the first time would easily know that there was a celebration in town as there were banners for direction at different strategic points. There were many people on motorbikes and in cars heading towards Salem City, the feast ground.

Starting from Sunday, December 14, the annual feast kicked off with Christian processions by jubilant feast celebrants to different parts of Warri. A very large balloon with an inscription, GKS Feast of the Tabernacles, was in the air as long as the occasion lasted.

Two subjects were discussed on the first day entitled, The Essence of the Feast of Tabernacles by Brother O.E. Oriaku and Everlasting Peace of God by Brother L. O. Edemhanria.

According to Oriaku, the feast was ordained by God Almighty through His Prophet, Moses, as a memorial of the Israelites’ years of sojourning in the wilderness when they lived in booths. Oriaku said it was an occasion of thanksgiving to God by way of offerings, songs and dances and most importantly, a time for spiritual renewal as the word of God was read and explained to the entire congregation, so that they might do God’s will always.

He explained that the festival is being celebrated anti-typically now that Jesus Christ, the perfect tabernacle of God, is with men, and in keeping with the prophetic command in Zechariah 14:16-19.
In his discourse, Edemhanria highlighted the distressed conditions people all over the world are made to live in at the instance of Satan, the devil, while pointing out that it is only in God Almighty and His son, Jesus Christ, through their established kingdom that all people of goodwill would have a new order of things free from pains, anxieties, poverty, wars, diseases and disasters.
Station Minister, GKS Onitsha branch, Brother T.C. Mazi-Rapu, on the following day spoke on, Are Women Ordained by God to preach the Gospel?

Mazi-Rapu made it clear that from the beginning, God only used men to do His work. He said the references to women as prophetesses in the Holy Bible were owing to wrong translations. He added that women could preach to other women and not in the whole congregation where men were.
In the same vein, Publicity Secretary, GKS, Brother Benedict Hart, spoke on the subject, What Is The Anointing Of The Holy Spirit?

He said that the anointing with literal oil in the time of old foreshadowed the anointing with the Holy Spirit through which God commissioned Jesus Christ for his earthly ministry. Hart explained that the saints were known by God before they were born, adding that they were not taught by men and that their hallmark is the truth which they preach unmixed with lies. “The multitude of those now parading themselves as anointed men and women of God are being presumptuous in as much as they do not have the credentials for apostleship,” he noted.

While lecturing on, Speaking In Tongues, Brother Moses Bazunu, who cited 1Corinthians 13:8 said that, the gift of speaking in tongues or other languages have ceased as people in various parts of the earth could now read the Bible and preach the word of God in their languages, which was not the case at the time of the early church.

He pointed out that what people say today was nothing but meaningless sounds contrary to what happened on the day of Pentecost.
In the first lecture taken on Tuesday, the third day of the event, entitled, What Did Christ Mean When He Said, ‘A Little While And The World Seeth Me No More,’ Station Minister, GKS, Yenegoa, Brother A. Okocha, said that the world would not see Jesus Christ in flesh anymore.

He explained that only the saints would see him because they would be resurrected as spirits and taken to heaven at Christ’s second presence, while others who would be chosen in the last days would know of his coming by revelation and then they would go and educate the world about God and His kingdom.
Station Minister, GKS Abuja, Brother T.M. Ekiseowei, speaking on, The Marks Of The True Church hinted that a true church is not characterized by claims of miracles, speaking in tongues or long period of existence but by the doctrine the church preaches.

He added that churches which believe in doctrines such as trinity, immortality of the soul, hell fire, among others, are not true because such teachings are contrary to the Bible.
In his subject, Walking In Newness Of Life, Senior Executive Minister, Brother Ifeacho, said it was shameful that some professed believers were given to idol worshipping, owing to lack of faith in God.

He condemned homosexuality as offensive to the ears and charged the faithful to show forth virtues which are fruits of the spirit such as love, joy, longsuffering, faith, temperance, among others.
On Thursday, Chairman of GKS Okota, Brother Felix Osifo, spoke on: Honour The Lord With Your Substance.

Drawing from the Lord’s injunction regarding the Feast of Tabernacles that the celebrants should not appear empty before the Lord, Osifo urged everyone to realize that they owe their creator the obligation to serve Him with all they have now that they are alive.

Also exhorting the people on the topic, In Your Patience, Possess Ye Your Souls, Trustee and Member of the GKS Executive Board, Brother Felix Adedokun, said that although the people of God suffer tribulations from time to time at the instance of the devil, if they should persevere with God, things would turn around for them and they would enjoy life and abundant blessing in the end.

General Secretary of GKS, Brother Ekireghwo, spoke on: Give diligence to make your calling and election sure. And the Vice President, GKS, Brother S. Nwaeke, dwelt on: Men ought always to pray and not to faint.

Nwaeke, who prayed for peace to continue in the Niger Delta for the growth of the work of God, spoke vehemently against women wearing men’s clothes just as he warned men against wearing women ornaments.

The event heightened from Friday, the sixth day of celebration. In the morning, GKS women from Nigeria and abroad converged on the St. Urhobo Square for the Christian women assembly. Two sisters, Grace Doku Gin and Funmilayo Alli addressed the sisters.

Also speaking on the occasion, Chairperson GKS Women, Sister Comfort Okandeji (Snr), urged the women to continue with the good work of God knowing fully that God does not forget their righteous work. While the Chairperson, London, Mrs. Victoria Atugba, highlighted how the GKS London fellowship fared.

The evening witnessed a celebration galore tagged, The Christian Music Festival. Men, women, children and even ministers displayed a high sense of appreciation to God with diverse languages and cultures through music, dance and costumes.
The music festival, which lasted for three hours with each group and branch performing for 10 minutes, had many dignitaries in attendance.

As early as 7.00am on Saturday, December 20, women dressed in wine-coloured wrappers and green blouses set out for a procession through the streets of Warri.
Activities came to a climax the following day, Sunday, with men and women dancing round Warri town as instruments of music moved about town in several vehicles were, a spectacle to behold.
Apart from these events, there were also meetings of different organizations, the aged, children and many others.

The President, Aighalua, charged everyone to meditate on the things taught at the feast. He reminded the people that those who keep God’s word will be blessed by Jehovah.
At the end, everyone was spiritually fulfilled. With the balloon deflated, it was the end of the feast and departure time for many who had travelled from within and outside the country to be part of the epoch-making event.

Ekiti lawmakers in free-for-all

A free-for-all broke out in the Ekiti State House of Assembly on Tuesday as some lawmakers moved to forestall the presentation of the state’s 2009 budget by Governor Segun Oni.
Show of shame: Ekiti Lawmakers in a tussle for the state Assembly’s mace... on Tuesday.

Trouble started when the budget was called for discussion and the Action Congress Leader in the Assembly, Mr. Funminiyi Afuye, objected, saying that Section 41 of the Assembly’s Standing Order must be adhered to.

The Section reads, “Any message from the governor shall be read on the floor of the House and the debate on such letter shall be slated for a future date.”

Oni sent the letter to the Assembly on December 24, notifying the lawmakers of his intention to present the budget on Tuesday. But due to the Christmas break, the letter was read by the Speaker, Mr. Tunji Odeyemi, the same day.

Odeyemi, however, overruled Afuye, quoting Order 65, which empowers him to take decisions whenever the Assembly ran into a hitch on any issue.

Before the Speaker asked the Leader of Government Business in the Assembly, Mr. Lai Oke, to usher the governor to the hallowed chambers, some AC lawmakers attempted to seize the mace, the Assembly’s symbol of authority, in order to prevent the presentation of the budget.

The action resulted in a fracas with a non-member of the Assembly, Mr. Bola Olu-Ojo, reportedly throwing caution to the winds by exchanging blows with some of the AC lawmakers. Olu-Ojo is the Peoples Democratic Party chairman in the state.

The PDP lawmakers and loyalists also joined in the shouting match, shoving and fisticuffs.

Our correspondent gathered that the AC lawmakers did not want the budget to be presented to show their displeasure with the Oni-led administration for going ahead to conduct the November 20 council poll in spite of their party’s protest against the perceived improper constitution of the state’s Independent Electoral Commission.

The leadership of the AC had asked the Ekiti High Court in Ado-Ekiti to stop the poll, but the judgment is yet to be delivered, owing to the ongoing judiciary workers‘ strike.

When Oni’s security aides eventually escorted him into the Assembly, some of the lawmakers still gathered around the mace.

The governor was apparently forced to spend less than 10 minutes presenting the 66-page appropriation bill, tagged “Budget of Consolidation.

Oni told journalists after presenting the budget that the lawmakers conducted themselves in the most dishonourable manner.

He said, “They have conducted themselves in the most dishonourable manner and these lawmakers would be known to their people.

“I want to make it very clear that this state belongs to all of us and nobody has a monopoly of anything.

“Let me say to the AC lawmakers that we have presented the budget putting the constitution in mind.

“Let me explain to you that the AC people are frustrated because they did not participate in the local government election but that should not be a licence for a dishonourable behaviour. It is a disgrace.

“The people should see the state beyond the frustration of a clique of people.

“We have presented the Budget of Consolidation. Anybody that is frustrated because of his political failure must know that the state is bigger than anybody.”

The AC leader in the House, Mr. Afuye, said as far as his colleagues were concern Oni had not presented the state’s budget.

He said, “The governor has not presented the 2009 budget to the House. He only came to be cheered by his supporters and PDP leaders. For Mr. Oni to have gone ahead to present the budget at such a rowdy session shows that he has lost self respect and self esteem. It is a continuation of Oni’s administration illegalities.”

The state government intends to spend N24.7bn on recurrent matters and N41bn on capital projects in 2009.

The budget will be financed through statutory allocation of N17.2bn, Value Added Tax of N5bn, internally generated revenue of N10.4bn, internal loan totalling N15bn and Ecological Fund remitance of N2bn.

Ghana delays presidential run-off result till Friday

The electoral commissioner of Ghana has delayed the result of Sunday‘s knife-edge presidential run-off until Friday.

Results in the Ashanti and Volta regions have been disputed and the Tain region, where the poll could not go ahead, will vote on Friday.

Officials said the votes between the opposition‘s John Atta Mills and ruling party‘s Nana Akufo-Addo were so close one result could decide the outcome.

The BBC correspondent in Ghana reported there were fears violence could erupt.

New Patriotic Party candidate, Akufo-Addo, gained the most votes in the first round earlier this month but did not pass the 50 per cent threshold needed for outright victory.

Electoral commission Chairman, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, said opposition National Democratic Congress candidate, Atta Mills had won 50.13 per cent of the vote, while Akufo-Addo had taken 49.87 per cent.

This means just 23,055 votes divide the two candidates, out of a total cast of some nine million.

”Results are so close that the result of the Tain constituency could affect the eventual winner,” Afari-Gyan said.

He said the results covered all 230 constituencies, except Tain in the Brong Ahafo region, which was unable to vote on Sunday due to a shortage of voting materials.

The commissioner, who has been stuck in behind-closed-doors wrangling with both parties in the capital Accra, said they would also use the delay to audit the disputed results.

The electoral commission headquarters was earlier besieged by thousands of NDC supporters demanding their candidate be declared the winner.

Armed police and soldiers backed by water cannon trucks and an armoured personnel carrier kept the protesters behind barricades and at one point fired warning shots.

As tensions rose, party officials handed out ice cream and water to the crowds to calm them down.

Atta Mills had earlier claimed victory, but the NPP said this was premature.

Shops closed early on Tuesday, with businessmen fearing that there could be looting once the result is announced.

The opposition has been disputing results awarded to the governing party from five constituencies in the Ashanti region.

It is understood turnout in one area was recorded at 99 per cent - said by election experts to be unheard of - while there were also complaints dead people, children and foreign nationals had been listed among voters.

The NPP, meanwhile, said there had been widespread intimidation of its election agents in the Volta region and results from these areas would be challenged.

International observers have given the poll a preliminary clean bill of health and urged both candidates to accept the results.

Some 12.5 million people were eligible to vote in the election - the fifth since Ghana‘s return to democracy in 1992.

President John Kufuor is standing down having served two consecutive terms.

In the two previous elections he defeated Atta Mills.

Atta Mills served as vice-president under former leader Jerry Rawlings.